Myanmar, Russia sign pact on developing nuclear power

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BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s military-led government, working with Russia’s state atomic energy company, has inaugurated a nuclear power information center as a step toward developing atomic power to fill energy shortages in the strife-torn Southeast Asian nation.

Myanmar state media reported Tuesday that the head of the military government, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, met with Alexey Evgenievich Likhachev, director general of the Russian State Atomic Energy Corp., or Rosatom.

Officials from the two sides met at the newly opened Nuclear Technology Information Center in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, on Monday, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

Myanmar hopes to build and operate a reactor under a preliminary agreement between Myanmar and Rosatom that was signed in 2015, the newspaper said. The two sides signed memorandums of understanding in Moscow in July on nuclear energy, training and promotion of public understanding of atomic power.

“Thanks to the cooperation of Rosatom, Myanmar will have to enhance the human resources related to the construction and running of a Small Modular Reactor in Myanmar and to produce qualified experts for respective sectors,” the newspaper quoted Min Aung Hlaing as saying.

“Both sides frankly exchanged views on the effective use of nuclear energy in health and agricultural sectors including electricity production and further cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” the newspaper said.

The development is likely to ignite concerns that Myanmar’s military would like to develop a nuclear weapons capability. There were suspicions a decade ago that North Korea was supplying nuclear arms technology to Myanmar, but there was no definitive evidence.

Russia maintains friendly relations with Myanmar, which is treated as a pariah state by many Western nations after its army ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021 and violently suppressed opposition, killing thousands of civilians and leading to what some U.N. experts describe as civil war.

The United States and other nations have imposed political and economic sanctions against the ruling generals, while Russia supplies the military with arms, including fighter aircraft that are sometimes used against civilians.

Russia has been promoting cooperation on nuclear power with several Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.